Cycling for All

Creating accessible and sustainable bike routes in Southeastern Ukraine

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Referred to by some as the Ukrainian Stonehenge, Kamyana Mohyla (Ukrainian: Кам'яна Могила; literally: ‘stone tomb’) is an archaeological site in the Molochna River valley, near the city of Melitopol in Southeastern Ukraine.

Melitopol’s ‘Stone Graves’, are a designated National Archaeological site. Like Stonehenge, the site dates back to the Neolithic period.

We'll go back in time to that mystic land

The site encompasses a collection of individual blocks of sandstone - large boulders up to twelve metres in height - scattered around an area of some 3,000m2.

Thousands of petroglyphs and pictures are found on the rock walls of the grottos and caves, including rock paintings of ancient people who lived and wandered in the Azov steppes for many millennia.

Various legends exist to explain the Kamyana Mohyla origin, but as local legend has it, the stones resulted from a scuffle of two baghaturs (an historical Turco-Mongol honorific title meaning ‘hero’ or ‘valiant warrior’) who took turns throwing rocks at each other.

Dual Gear

Appreciating the unique history and natural environment, the NGO Clean Environment of Zaporizhya received a grant from the Small Grants Programme (SGP) to promote steppe landscape protection and rural development by bolstering sustainable tourism through cycling

Following their motto: “Change ourselves, change Ukraine”, the Clean Environment of Zaporizhya promotes and implements climate-friendly initiatives aimed at preventing the negative health consequences of climate change, improving awareness on how to prevent ecological crises and promoting a sustainable lifestyle.

In this project, the objectives were the promotion of cycling, green tourism and agroecology with a focus on inclusion of persons with disabilities.

In cooperation with the Union of Green Rural Tourism Development in the Zaporizhya region, local youth organisations, and organizations of persons with disabilities, the project worked to develop two cycling routes.

The cycling routes pass through picturesque river valleys, where cyclists enjoy clean air, the smell of fragrant herbs, and wild birds (including pheasants) cavorting. The length of the first eco-route is 27 km, and the second is 35 km.

One route follows the Milk River along the periphery of the Old-Forest Reserve, which has more than 165 species of tree and shrub species, many of which are endemic to Ukraine and are inhabited by 90 animal species.

The second route passes the ‘Stone Grave’ Reserve National Historical and Archaeological Museum and continues past unique monuments of geology and archaeology.

Detailed route information is available here.

To fully develop the capacities and infrastructure of the eco-routes, and to ensure the inclusion of persons with disabilities in sustainable tourism, the project donated 12 trekking bicycles and 4 tandem bicycles for the use of blind people as second passengers to local community network organisations.

As a result, over 600 young people and 120 people with disabilities now have the ability to enjoy these eco-routes annually.

Cultivating Green Tourism

Most importantly, this initiative brings a variety of environmental benefits to the region and local community, including the protection of the European virgin steppe landscape.

In addition, the project improved the capacities of 10 households on eco-tourism and agroecology and over 150 citizens now use bicycles and promote friendly-transportation.

The project also equipped routes with road signs, information stands, and parking stations for bicycles. All these information products were developed in Braille as well.

An extensive communication campaign to promote sustainable tourism and agroecology was conducted and included seminars for farm owners and village heads, as well as a website about the eco cycling routes.

The stopovers along the route involve local households involved in sustainable tourism and as a result, ten green rural households have benefited from the doubling in tourists visitors since the bike path opened.

Three of these ten green households have received a Ukrainian Green Award for the ‘100 best green households of Ukraine’.

Given the success of the project, the local government officially registered the eco-routes in the list of sustainable tourism sites of the region.

To scale up the project, the Melitopol City State Administration supported this initiative by providing legislative, technical and organizational support which led to the inclusion of a bicycle run as part of the Melitopol City Day official celebration.

Key partners in these initiative also include the Urban Cycling Zaporizhya Union for children with special needs, the Childhood Disabled Society ‘Lebidonka’, Society of Blind People, Union for the Promotion of Rural Green Tourism in Ukraine, Ukrainian-Byelorussian Cultural and Educational Society ‘Suzirria’,and the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Geography of the Melitopol State Pedagogical University.

Bicycle run as part of the Melitopol City Day celebration. Over 150 citizens participated in the bicycle run.

Bicycle run as part of the Melitopol City Day celebration. Over 150 citizens participated in the bicycle run.

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Small Grants = Big Impacts

Since 2010, the Small Grants Program has supported more than 170 projects in Ukraine.

‘The GEF SGP is needed in Ukraine because it supports local communities to get new knowledge and to receive benefits from an environment-friendly lifestyle.’
Mr. Vasyl Kuzmych, Grantee, Head of Local NGO For Clean Environment

In addition to its focus on environmental conservation, SGP supports projects by and for vulnerable groups of people, including people with disabilities. By mainstreaming and engaging these groups, it enables them to actively participate in community efforts, which in turn improve their livelihoods and enable effective environment and development management that reflects the needs and aspirations of all.

'Environmental protection on the local level in Ukraine is of vital importance. SGP Ukraine has a good platform to support the local communities in their efforts to generate global environmental benefits. We have an important opportunity to contribute towards solving environmental problems through joint efforts by the communities, civil society, government, business and the international community. An opportunity to create a critical mass of people and organisations which will help Ukraine say a definite "NO" to environmental degradation in Ukraine.’
Mr. Oleksandr Brodsky, SGP, National Steering Committee Chair

For more information on SGP-supported projects in Ukraine, visit the SGP Ukraine Country Page.

For more information on this specific project, please visit the SGP project profile: Biodiversity conservation on steppe landscape with granite extractions.

Visit the SGP website for details on the overall Small Grants Programme.

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Story by Andrea Egan, Valentyna Kyrychenko, and SGP team / Photos: © UNDP SGP Ukraine